The bumpy road that disrupted Julie’s sexual awakening on Desperate Housewives is nothing compared to what Andrea Bowen is faced with in Lifetime’s Girl, Positive (premiering tonight at 9 pm/ET). As popular party gal Rachel, Bowen lives it up and loves up her high-school beau, until a most unexpected scare taunts her with the prospect of death. Helping her navigate the facts and fictions of HIV and AIDS are 90210 alumna Jennie Garth and Law & Order’s S. Epatha Merkerson. TVGuide.com spoke with the young actress about the assorted hurdles she faced in telling this tale.
TVGuide.com: The clinic scenes in Girl, Positive come off as rather authentic. Were those real HIV patients in the background?
Andrea Bowen: Some of them were, yeah. One guy in particular had AIDS and cancer, actually, so he was dealing with a lot. He had contacted the film and said he wanted to be a part of it in any way he could be, and they were like, "Absolutely." They do one shot of him where he looks right at the camera. It’s really powerful.
TVGuide.com: Isn’t it kind of amazing, in a sad way, that there is still a need for informational TV-movies like this?
Bowen: Oh, yeah, it is sad. When we did some of the research, it was shocking how little people know about what HIV is, the ways of getting it…. I like that the film gives a lot of knowledge out without being preachy. It doesn’t tell you how to live your life or what to do. It just says that everyone is at risk and you have to know how to protect yourself.
TVGuide.com: Did you learn anything new?
Bowen: I’ve been involved in a lot of different AIDS charities and organizations from a very young age because when I was 6, I did a lot of theater and a lot of Broadway, and that community has a lot of tie-ins, particularly to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. So going into this I knew a lot about it, but I learned so much more. The statistics and the facts are so scary. It’s something like every six seconds a new person is infected with HIV — and most of those people are under the age of 25. There is still such a stigma attached to this disease. It’s been stereotyped as [affecting mostly] gay men, and it’s really not anymore. That's what drew me to this project, that it’s about a young normal girl next door.
TVGuide.com: To be fair, Rachel is a little slutty.
Bowen: Yeah, maybe a little. [Laughs] She’s slightly promiscuous. But you’d be surprised how common that is now. Not all teenage girls are that way, but [the percentage] has grown. If we know that a lot of young people are sexually active, it’s important to get the message out there on how to protect yourself, instead of pushing abstinence, which is an unrealistic expectation.
TVGuide.com: On a lighter note, at one point Jennie Garth’s teacher comments on how the kids are “practically having sex in the hallways.” I had to laugh, like, “Hello?! Kelly Taylor!”
Bowen: Yeah, yeah, I know! And me, on Desperate Housewives. Jennie and I talked about that a few times, how crazy it is that these teens are getting it on all the time, and both of us are part of shows where that is prevalent.
TVGuide.com: Were you a fan of 90210, or was that before your time?
Bowen: That was a little before my time. I was like 5, so hopefully I wasn’t watching it! But I watched it the other day on TV, and my older siblings were into it. Working with Jennie was really great; she does a wonderful job in this movie.
TVGuide.com: Has it been uncomfortable at all this year embracing your sexuality on screen?
Bowen: It’s always going to be a little awkward. It actually wasn’t that awkward between Josh [Henderson, Housewives’ Austin] and I. It was more awkward for the crew, because they’ve seen me grow up from being this little girl.
TVGuide.com: And now they’re instructing you on how to block a love scene.
Bowen: Exactly! It was so weird. I had a few buttons of my shirt undone, because Josh and I were on the couch, and one of the sound guys came over and said, “Um, are those supposed to be undone?” I was like, “Yes, they are.” It was really funny. My mom, on the other hand, is banned [from the set] when I’m filming those scenes. That’s probably the most awkward!
TVGuide.com: Where do you rank this past season of Housewives?
Bowen: It’s definitely better than [Season] 2. Not that 2 was bad, but it didn’t have the same feeling as our first season. We all lost our footing, but that happens a lot with sophomore seasons. There was nowhere to go but down. I believe we came back very strong for our third season, and I’d put it at a tie with our first season. It had a lot of the same quick wit, and the mystery elements, too.
TVGuide.com: Is it unnerving at all to be part of a show that draws so many headlines? “Eva’s Wedding!” “Marcia’s Babies!” “Teri’s Dating Steven Kay!”
Bowen: I know, it’s so crazy. It gets a little old. When you start the show, you do it because you love it and you want it to be about the work, but personal lives get drawn into the media so quickly. We all got used to it, but you do get tired of questions like, “Do the women really get along? How is Eva’s wedding planning going?” These are their lives and they want to keep them private.
TVGuide.com: Lastly, two questions about the Housewives season finale. First, where did Julie get the power source for the lights that were strung up in the forest trees for the surprise wedding?
Bowen: I have no idea. [Laughs] When Jamie [Denton, Mike] and I walked into that set, we were like, ”Wow, this is pretty hardcore. She did this all in, like, two hours?”
TVGuide.com: And No. 2, might Edie have failed in her suicide attempt? Does Nicollette Sheridan know, one way or the other, whether she’s returning next season?
Bowen: I don’t know if she’s knows; I definitely don’t know. None of us knew until the finale aired that [Edie’s suicide] was part of it. That wasn’t in the original script, it was an added thing. I went up to Jamie and said, “I’m hearing all this stuff about the last five minutes of the show, and it has to do with Nicollette…? Do you know anything about this?” He was like, “No, I don’t know at all.” None of us knew, so I have no idea what’s happening with that story line, but it was a great way to leave it. There is a possibility that whatever she hung herself from broke or someone caught her in time…. You don’t know.
TVGuide.com: It left everyone hanging.
Bowen: Pun very much intended!
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